By Howard Kurtz, ,
Published December 20, 2015
Krugman vs. Washington Post
From Christie to Cuomo to McDonnell, the media’s selective standards
This is a tale of three governors—one embroiled in scandal, one under attack for harsh comments, and one under indictment.
The media continue to be most mesmerized by Chris Christie, who is not only playing defense on the bridge scandal but on subsequent allegations of retaliating against Democratic mayors. The appetite for what would otherwise be a purely Trenton story: seemingly inexhaustible.
The media went wild on Tuesday over the federal charges against former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, and it is one helluva juicy scandal. But there has been surprisingly little national interest in the saga, and by yesterday the coverage had begun to fade.
Andrew Cuomo has dug himself into a hole with crude remarks about New York State having no place for “extreme conservatives.” But that story is mainly getting traction only on the right.
Let’s start with Cuomo. Here’s what he said in a radio interview about the state GOP:
“Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that's who they are, and if they are the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that's not who New Yorkers are.”
Incredibly, there was not a single news story about this in the hometown New York Times until this morning. Nor in the politics-obsessed Washington Post, which ran a op-ed by conservative Michael Gerson. Fox News has repeatedly made an issue of the Cuomo contretemps, and a database search turned up nothing on CNN or MSNBC (except for Ed Schultz welcoming Sean Hannity’s promise to leave the state). What's more, the Times story doesn't take issue with Cuomo's comments but leads by saying the Republicans have "found a talking point."
Now let’s say that Cuomo didn’t mean to banish conservatives from the state. His office says his comments were taken out of context and that he was referring to the kinds of Republicans who can win elections in New York. Still, top GOP officials are demanding an apology.
Is that not even worthy of mention in the Times?
How would the mainstream media have reacted if Rick Scott or Rick Perry said that pro-choice, pro-gun control and pro-gay rights people weren’t welcome in their state? Wouldn’t that be a huge story? This is clearly a case of double standards.
The McDonnell indictment is fascinating because the Washington Post has been reporting most of the allegations for nearly a year. The spectacle of a governor and his wife taking nearly $165,000 from a wealthy businessman—in part to fuel Maureen McDonnell’s shopping sprees at Bergdorf Goodman, Louis Vuitton and Oscar de la Renta—is sad enough. The fact that the first couple appeared at events with the businessman and took other steps to promote his product moves the tawdry affair into a potentially criminal realm.
Yet the national press hasn’t seemed much interested in McDonnell, despite the fact that he was touted as a short-lister for the 2012 VP nomination. Maybe that’s because he’s on the dull side, although he did draw flak for the left for signing a bill requiring women to undergo an ultrasound procedure before having an abortion. Maybe because he’s washed up as a national figure. Or maybe the McDonnell scandal was covered mainly in and around Virginia because he is a state figure.
Not so for Christie, whose story has been covered—and in some quarters overcovered—as if he were actively campaigning for president. Not only are his 2016 ambitions driving the story, so is his larger-than-life personality (remember the two-hour presser?) and the hardball nature of Jersey politics.
There’s little question the Christie coverage has turned partisan; MSNBC yesterday was running pictures of him and McDonnell with the caption, “Falling Stars?” And cable news loves partisan brawls. But the wide disparities in how these three governors have been treated speaks volumes about how the media make judgments.
Krugman vs. Washington Post
The departure of Ezra Klein, the Post's "Wonkblog" creator who is splitting after Jeff Bezos declined to give him $10 million or more to launch an affiliated website, is a very hot subject in media circles.
So hot, in fact, that New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, a fellow liberal, is thumbing his nose at the Washington paper:
"And may I say respectfully to the Post: You idiots!
"You see, Ezra and his team filled a huge gap. That gap exists throughout the news media, although the Times has, I believe, largely closed it in other ways. But it was especially severe at the Post.
"Here’s the problem: When you’re covering policy, the usual tools of journalism — cultivating sources, pounding the pavement, pulling out the Rolodex — just won’t cut it. You have to have people who actually understand the policy issues — people who can pound a spreadsheet, or whose Rolodex includes academic experts as well as DC flacks.
"Otherwise what you get at best is he-said-she-said reporting — what I mocked many years ago as responding to claims that the earth is flat with the headline “Views differ on shape of planet.” Or, even worse, you rely on people who seem like authority figures because of their style or their official position, but are in reality just guys with an agenda, and often completely untrustworthy."
Of course, the Post also had to examine whether Klein's venture made sense as a business proposition--and whether it wanted to divert that much cash away from the newsroom.
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